Writing for horns

Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpose them somehow? I know when I played guitar in a blues group we had trumpet and sax players and they had to transpose the stuff I would write. In a classical setting does the player transpose there own music or should the composer do it. That asked, regardless of whether or not I should transpose, I could use a resource to tell me how to transpose for each instrument. This is something Im not really sure even were to begin as I have never played any instrument that is not in C Thanks

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  • yes you do need to transpose for the French Horn as it is in F instead of C. The performer can transpose on there own, but they want like you for it and they might not be good at doing so either.It will also take away from valuable rehearsal time if they have to transpose and they might not miss other markings due to the fact they are busy transposing. (and that is true for all transposing instruments).

    I know as a french horn player myself, I will always pick music that is transposed for me already and didn't require me to do that.

    As far as resources for transposing the instrument, most notation software can do this already, there is also transposition charts online.
    What my professor taught me about transposing for horn is this:
    French are written up a fifth and sound down a forth. For example; to get a french horn to play a concert C you write in there part up a fifth to a G. To get them to play an F, you write a C in there part and so on. As far as key signature, with horns you always either add a sharp or subtract a flat. example; if your piece is in C major, in the horn part you have to had F sharp in the key signature, and if your piece is in B flat major, you have to subtract the E flat from there key and leave just the B flat.

    Hopefully this helped, if I can I will post links to websites that can help you in this.
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    This domain may be for sale!
  • I'd like to add, that the trouble of transposing, is on the composer's side, since he/she is the one preparing the work...

    As much as I know, the transposition is rarely done by composers in their scores (since the 20th century)...
    In my opinion, such work should be done by instrumentalists, if not to show, that they can do it, then to show some respect to the composer and his work.

    To sum it up: You need not necessarily write transposed for the instruments, which would "classically" require it..
    If you write for solo horn, solo clarinet, or solo english horn, then you might consider doing it...

    Ario

    Tyler said:
    yes you do need to transpose for the French Horn as it is in F instead of C. The performer can transpose on there own, but they want like you for it and they might not be good at doing so either.It will also take away from valuable rehearsal time if they have to transpose and they might not miss other markings due to the fact they are busy transposing. (and that is true for all transposing instruments).

    I know as a french horn player myself, I will always pick music that is transposed for me already and didn't require me to do that.

    As far as resources for transposing the instrument, most notation software can do this already, there is also transposition charts online.
    What my professor taught me about transposing for horn is this:
    French are written up a fifth and sound down a forth. For example; to get a french horn to play a concert C you write in there part up a fifth to a G. To get them to play an F, you write a C in there part and so on. As far as key signature, with horns you always either add a sharp or subtract a flat. example; if your piece is in C major, in the horn part you have to had F sharp in the key signature, and if your piece is in B flat major, you have to subtract the E flat from there key and leave just the B flat.

    Hopefully this helped, if I can I will post links to websites that can help you in this.
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  • Great stuff y'all.
    one more question on the same topic is in regards to clef.
    is it good form to keep it in bass or treble only or is it okay to write in alto clef like one sees with the cello from time to time?
    In the song I am working on, a lot of the french horn part when wrote in bass clef it is high above the staff and treble is far below but if wrote in alto clef it looks nice and tidy .
  • Treble, Horns read in treble clef and rarely in bass clef if it gets to low. The only instrument that reads alto clef are violas and some wired clarinets. And once transposed the part wont appear so high or low in the staff. In fact that is one of the reasons why these instruments are transposing instruments.

    and regards to Ario's post, but majority (if not all) the scores I have read are transposed by the composer. The few that are not transposed are usually films scores written by composers who have little knowledge of instruments or are from the early baroque period when they had natural horns, and those usually get transposed by a copyist or an orchestrator. Transposing the score ass a responsibility for the composer to do in the classical setting is the norm even in the 20th century. And trust me, having just taken a class in where every one had to transpose there part, it will save you from a lot of missed notes and rehearsal time. and the other added benefit to transposing is that you can see the horn's range better then if it was in C.

    Mike said:
    Great stuff y'all.
    one more question on the same topic is in regards to clef.
    is it good form to keep it in bass or treble only or is it okay to write in alto clef like one sees with the cello from time to time?
    In the song I am working on, a lot of the french horn part when wrote in bass clef it is high above the staff and treble is far below but if wrote in alto clef it looks nice and tidy .
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • Thats great info Tyler!!!
    Now that I read this and I switched from the full score to just the french horn part and saw it transposed and your right it does fit nicely on the staff.

    when on the full score then were it is in C (I cant find were to edit the key on just one staff yet.. still learning the program) should a person write the horn out with 8vb to make for a nicer looking full score?

    And as Fredrick points out the parts should be transposed but the full score I am guessing (as this is how Sibelius works it out) should all be in C.
    And all of these thoughts and ideas on transposing would then relate to ANY transposed instrument?


    how much fun =) I love learning all this about music... this forum has really helped expanded my skills. talk about an amazing place =)
  • Just to be sure, I grabbed my Dover copy of Rite of Spring, which is a reprint of the Russian state publishing house edition. Not a good choice, since Stravinsky didn't use key signatures, :) and loved using every possible variant of of winds he could lay his hands on, but I was able to confirm, it is fully transposed as I expected.

    The only times I've seen everything written out in concert was in textbooks, but I haven't seen a wide selection of scores, so I don't know if this was the choice of the period or the convention used in the textbook.

    Yes, professional musicians should be able to transpose, but it makes more sense to do it up front. Especially consider the extra headache you're handing a musician who is switching instruments (A, Bb & Eb Clarinets, Trumpets in C, Bb, or D, English Horn to Oboe, Alto Flute to Concert Flute, etc.), making him switch gears with instruments.
  • As far as full scores go, most conductors I have talked to like transposed full scores. It makes it easier to call out performers who are messing up or for them to check notes in there part with out having to get off the podium and walk over the offending section. Like if the horns were playing an F# when it is suppose to be an F natural in there part, if the score in transposed the conductor can quickly correct them and get on with rehearsal.

    People in the film scoring industry prefer C scores, but that might be due to the number of film composers who cant read music or barely can read music and its easier for them. . If its a score for study, like something a student would get in the library or any one else who is just looking over the score for other reasons other then performance sake, the a C score is better. I think in Sibelius you can switch the full score in to a transposed score with a click of a button.

    If you keep the score in C, put at the top of the score somewhere that the score is in C or the conductor might assume that it is not. I have been in rehearsal where the score was not properly marked and the conductor didnt realize that the score was in C and was unable to assist the ensemble correctly until he realized what was the issue. That took a ton of needed rehearsal time.
    Mike said:
    Thats great info Tyler!!!
    Now that I read this and I switched from the full score to just the french horn part and saw it transposed and your right it does fit nicely on the staff.

    when on the full score then were it is in C (I cant find were to edit the key on just one staff yet.. still learning the program) should a person write the horn out with 8vb to make for a nicer looking full score?

    And as Fredrick points out the parts should be transposed but the full score I am guessing (as this is how Sibelius works it out) should all be in C.
    And all of these thoughts and ideas on transposing would then relate to ANY transposed instrument?


    how much fun =) I love learning all this about music... this forum has really helped expanded my skills. talk about an amazing place =)
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • I had edited my post above to add some info about clefs, but looks like I crossed the 15 minute time limit while typing (Why so short? I've been on forums that gave you 24 hours!)

    About the Alto Clef:

    The Cello does NOT read Alto Clef. What you have seen is Tenor Clef, where the C clef is moved up one line so that Middle C lays on the second to the top line instead of the middle. As I have self-studied Viola and I played Bassoon in high school, I can assure you that this little move makes a world of difference.

    Tenor clef is much more common. As I recall, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon, Cello and Double Bass all read Tenor in their upper ranges. Some of these also read treble clef. It may sound annoying, but trust me, it is a lot easier for a wind or string player to read two clefs than to try to read "8va" notation or ledger lines, both of which are massively annoying. (As an occasional violinist, I am divided on whether it is better to read 8va or read ledger lines. Violins really need an upper range clef of their own, but I'm probably about three hundred years late with the suggestion.)

    In orchestra music, Horn reads Bass and Treble only, no Alto or Tenor. Perhaps in other standards, like military band, but I wouldn't know.
  • AHHHHHH!!!
    Now that helps bring it all together a bit.
    sounds like this post should be titled Clef's and Transpositions and not just French horn.
    and this all brings up a question. What is a good source to learn the details about this subject..

    I for one want my music ready for people to read...
    writing outside of guitar music forces me to think about these things that I have never had to worry about =p


    Eric Fretheim said:
    I had edited my post above to add some info about clefs, but looks like I crossed the 15 minute time limit while typing (Why so short? I've been on forums that gave you 24 hours!)

    About the Alto Clef:

    The Cello does NOT read Alto Clef. What you have seen is Tenor Clef, where the C clef is moved up one line so that Middle C lays on the second to the top line instead of the middle. As I have self-studied Viola and I played Bassoon in high school, I can assure you that this little move makes a world of difference.

    Tenor clef is much more common. As I recall, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon, Cello and Double Bass all read Tenor in their upper ranges. Some of these also read treble clef. It may sound annoying, but trust me, it is a lot easier for a wind or string player to read two clefs than to try to read "8va" notation or ledger lines, both of which are massively annoying. (As an occasional violinist, I am divided on whether it is better to read 8va or read ledger lines. Violins really need an upper range clef of their own, but I'm probably about three hundred years late with the suggestion.)

    In orchestra music, Horn reads Bass and Treble only, no Alto or Tenor. Perhaps in other standards, like military band, but I wouldn't know.
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • There is a book you might want to get. Essential Dictionary of Orchestration by Dave Black and Tom Gerou. Published by Alfed Publishing Co,. Inc.
    For 7 bucks this book is the most valuable book to have when it comes to instrumental and vocal orchestration.

    Mike said:
    AHHHHHH!!!
    Now that helps bring it all together a bit.
    sounds like this post should be titled Clef's and Transpositions and not just French horn.
    and this all brings up a question. What is a good source to learn the details about this subject..

    I for one want my music ready for people to read...
    writing outside of guitar music forces me to think about these things that I have never had to worry about =p


    Eric Fretheim said:
    I had edited my post above to add some info about clefs, but looks like I crossed the 15 minute time limit while typing (Why so short? I've been on forums that gave you 24 hours!)

    About the Alto Clef:

    The Cello does NOT read Alto Clef. What you have seen is Tenor Clef, where the C clef is moved up one line so that Middle C lays on the second to the top line instead of the middle. As I have self-studied Viola and I played Bassoon in high school, I can assure you that this little move makes a world of difference.

    Tenor clef is much more common. As I recall, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon, Cello and Double Bass all read Tenor in their upper ranges. Some of these also read treble clef. It may sound annoying, but trust me, it is a lot easier for a wind or string player to read two clefs than to try to read "8va" notation or ledger lines, both of which are massively annoying. (As an occasional violinist, I am divided on whether it is better to read 8va or read ledger lines. Violins really need an upper range clef of their own, but I'm probably about three hundred years late with the suggestion.)

    In orchestra music, Horn reads Bass and Treble only, no Alto or Tenor. Perhaps in other standards, like military band, but I wouldn't know.
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
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